Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher will ask Gov. Jeb Bush and other members of the Florida Cabinet for authorization to give the hardest-hit victims of Hurricane Charley a 60-day grace period for premium payments and non-renewals.
Gallagher will ask to extend these measures through Oct. 15 to storm victims in Brevard, Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Lake, Lee, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, and Volusia counties, which have been declared as substantially effected counties.
Gallagher already is asking banks and credit unions to consider increasing credit card limits and credit lines, reducing or eliminating late fees on loans, granting temporary loan payment extensions, allowing customers to skip a loan or credit card payment, expediting loan applications, and waiving ATM and check-cashing fees for storm victims, even if they are not accountholders.
“We have residents who don’t have a roof over their heads, or even a way to receive mail and may not for weeks,” Gallagher said. “As we work to come to grips with the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, we will need to recognize extenuating circumstances for storm victims. We need to focus on helping our citizens and businesses get back on their feet.”
The department has also learned that some scammers may reportedly be sending e-mails under the guise of a financial institution asking for information to ensure the security of an account, when they actually are looking for information to steal one’s identity.
Gallagher said residents should not respond to such e-mails, and instead should call their financial institution directly to inquire about their accounts.
Kevin McCarty, commissioner of Insurance Regulation, said that insurers could easily comply with the measures Gallagher will ask for at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
“Seeing the devastation that these people have had to deal with, the last thing we want them to worry about is their insurance coverage,” McCarty said.
McCarty said he would issue an order to facilitate Gallagher’s requests. He also will seek to suspend rate filings until further notice so staff can assist residents and businesses with filing claims and recovery.
On Tuesday, Gallagher banned public adjuster fees to no more than 10 percent of the claim payment, noting in the case of a total loss that no fee should be charged. He also banned adjusters from requiring any upfront payment.
The Department of Financial Services has teams of investigators on the ground investigating reports of any unlicensed adjusters or inappropriate adjuster offers. Investigators are tracking complaints that some adjusters have reportedly asked for as much as 25 percent of the claim payment and as much as $2,000 up front to initiate claims processing.
Gallagher will again tour hurricane-damaged areas on Thursday with insurance executives to give them a first-hand view of the damage. Gallagher has deployed the department’s Mobile Response Unit, located in the Publix parking lot at 24123 Peachland Blvd. in Port Charlotte.
Specialists are also located at FEMA outposts including the Herald Recreation Center, 23400 Herald Ave. in Port Charlotte; the Germain Arena, 11 Everblades Parkway in Estero; and at DeSoto Middle School, 420 East Gibson St. in Arcadia.
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